Joss Whedon’s The Avengers in 2012 caused more than just a ripple in the world of movies. Beyond cementing the position of Disney / Marvel as the leading force in the superhero genre in Hollywood, it also raised the profile of each one of its actors. They were already catching our attention when things began getting hot with 2008’s Iron Man and the subsequent Marvel movies, but after 2012’s The Avengers, they truly became superheroes for us. So for fun’s sake, I thought of going back in time, to the turn of the century, to have a look at these actors as they were then. Fifteen years back, would they have been worthy of such roles? What were our Avengers of now doing in 2000? Let’s have a look.
Robert Downey, Jr. / Iron Man
Jail time, rehab time. That was the kind of life Robert Downey, Jr. was living in 2000. His drug addiction problem was at its worse, but despite that, he bagged a role in the TV series Ally McBeal and in fact, won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in 2001. That’s how good an actor he has always been! But the drug addiction took its toll, and on the Thanksgiving holiday of 2000, he was arrested for possession of cocaine and valium. A year later, he was fired from Ally McBeal. There was nothing much happening in terms of films too in that period for Robert Downey, Jr. He had only one release, Wonder Boys, in 2000 where he had a supporting role along side Michael Douglas. The movie bombed at the box-office. Such were those days. The subsequent resurrection of Robert Downey, Jr. is no different from that of his on-screen persona of Tony Stark. And we couldn’t have been happier for him!
Chris Evans / Captain America
The bulky Chris Evans of now was a much leaner version back in 2000. That was the year when he infact began his acting career onscreen, appearing in the teen drama TV series Opposite Sex which ran only for one season. He made his film debut too in the same year with The Newcomers. The movie was about a family that has recently moved to the country side and are struggling with the changes. Chris Evans had no leading part in it and played the boyfriend of the young daughter (Kate Bosworth) of the family. Lucky girl, but little would she have known then that she was dating the future Captain America!
Chris Hemsworth / Thor
Eh well, this fellow was born in 1983, and so was just 17 by the year 2000. Do not expect him to have a career worth talking of then. Chris Hemsworth’s debut onscreen came two years after that of Chris Evans, in 2002, in a Canadian/Australian fantasy television series called Guinevere Jones. He appeared in only two episodes, though playing none other than King Arthur. That’s the picture on top where Chris Hemsworth is hardly recognisable. The fabled leader of Britain though was destined to be the ruler of Asgard one day!
Mark Ruffalo / Hulk
Ruffalo could very well have taken the shape of the green giant even back in 2000. That year was in fact one of the highlights of his career. He starred in two movie releases. The first was a small role in a little known movie titled Committed which had Heather Graham in the lead. The second was the Oscar nominated You Can Count On Me where Mark Ruffalo played the role of the younger brother to Laura Linney’s central character in the film. Ruffalo’s character was more of a vagabond, who lives a troubled life but reunites with his sister, though throwing her life in turmoil. His performance was well received and got him nominated in some award shows like Independent Spirit Awards. He also starred in the NYPD based drama series The Beat in 2000, though that series did not last too long. The year was also special for Ruffalo as he tied the knot with his present wife, Sunrise Coigney. The next fifteen years have seen its highs and lows for Mark Ruffalo, and during this time, we also got two actors to play the Hulk. But what is meant to be is meant to be, and the third one turned out to be the best!
Scarlett Johansson / Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson may be a year younger than Chris Hemsworth but she has been around in cinema for what seems like ages. She started as a child actress in 1994, and has had a remarkable movie career ever since. In the year 2000, she wasn’t seen on the big screen, but in the next year, she was part of the Coen brothers’ movie The Man Who Wasn’t There and had a leading role in the critically acclaimed Ghost World. So for Marvel to cast Scarlett Johansson fifteen years back would have required some script rewrites to bring down the age of Black Widow, but she could still have easily pulled off a memorable act then!
Jeremy Renner / Hawkeye
Jeremy Renner made his film debut in 1995, but by 2000 he was nowhere near becoming a star of any kind. He had brief roles in feature films, TV movies, and in some episodes of TV series though never as a recurring character. In short, he was struggling. Interestingly, in 2000, he starred in one episode of the TV series Angel, created by none other than Joss Whedon. He played the role of a vampire called Penn, who was the antagonist in the episode. Eh well, even Whedon would not have known then that he would one day direct the biggest superhero movie of our times, and cast his evil vampire of that episode as a heroic archer. Strange things do happen!